The Right Prescription In Healthcare: Action, Not Talk

Posted: Nov 20, 2007 11:16 AM
The Right Prescription In Healthcare: Action, Not Talk

By Congressmen Phil Gingrey, M.D. and Tom Price, M.D.

Over the past ten months, we have heard every presidential candidate talk about the dire need to reform our nation's healthcare system. The candidates all talk about their theories and solutions on how to cover the uninsured. But there is only one candidate running for president in either party that has actually gone beyond the talk and succeeded at leading the fight for meaningful healthcare reform. There is just one candidate who has the experience, vision, and values to fundamentally change America's healthcare delivery system for the better. That candidate is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

As physicians who have had a combined 50 years of experience in practicing medicine, we understand the need for broad healthcare reform. The number of uninsured continues to rise, families struggle to pay for the rising costs of premiums, and businesses are being forced to drop their health insurance benefits in order to stay competitive in the global marketplace. As conservative Members of Congress who face the challenge of delivering healthcare reforms nationwide, we understand how critical it is to have a president with a successful record when it comes to solving the current healthcare crisis.

Because of Governor Romney's leadership, the number of uninsured in Massachusetts has been slashed in half over the last year. His conservative, free-market reforms have brought down the cost of health insurance premiums and made healthcare more affordable for residents across the state. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, hundreds of thousands of the low-income uninsured citizens have access to a choice of different private health insurance plans. And all of this was accomplished without any new taxes.

Governor Romney's healthcare reforms have begun to take shape and there are already many ways in which his plan has made a positive difference in the lives of many Massachusetts citizens. Unfortunately, some critics would prefer to ignore these early signs of success and, instead, are far more interested in writing a premature obituary of the reforms for ideological or political purposes. The reality is that Governor Romney was successful in bringing healthcare reform to his state. No matter what the critics say, more Massachusetts residents are currently covered with private health insurance than ever before.

The early signs of success are undeniable. First, over half of the uninsured in Massachusetts now have health insurance because of Governor Romney's reforms. This includes over 160,000 people who have purchased private health insurance in reformed markets that feature a variety of plans with cheaper premiums and more generous benefits. Second, the conservative, market-oriented reforms that Governor Romney instituted have made health insurance more affordable. Before Governor Romney's reforms, the average uninsured resident was paying $335 a month to obtain an insurance policy with a $5,000 deductible. Now, that same individual only pays $184 a month for a policy with a $2,000 deductible. Finally, residents of Massachusetts now have an avenue to purchase insurance with pre-tax dollars, leveling the playing field between the individual market and employer sponsored health plans, and bringing the monthly premium paid by the average uninsured resident in the state to as low as $115 a month.

Some commentators have faulted Governor Romney for providing generous assistance to the low-income uninsured, to help them purchase private health insurance coverage. What they neglect to mention is that these individuals were already being administered "free care" in hospitals and emergency medical facilities – at an expense of over $1 billion to Massachusetts taxpayers. These naysayers seem to think its better for the uninsured to have disjointed and inconsistent healthcare paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars than to make private insurance more affordable and therefore more accessible. It is unfortunate that they seem to overlook how important access to preventive healthcare is for all Americans. When you give physicians the opportunity to diagnose and manage conditions before they reach a crisis state, it lightens the load on the system and reduces long-term health care spending. Governor Romney had the foresight to realize these distinctions; he chose to lead rather than to listen to the pessimists, and the people of Massachusetts are better for it.

America's healthcare problems won't be solved by the rhetoric and partisan bickering that is happening on the campaign trail. Nor will they be solved by politicians who have talked about change, but done nothing to demonstrate that they have the courage to lead. Governor Romney faced the healthcare crisis in Massachusetts head-on. He crafted a plan, worked with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature to get it passed, and is responsible for the success of that plan in covering the uninsured and lowering healthcare costs in Massachusetts. He is the only candidate for the presidency who has demonstrated both the vision and the will to accomplish meaningful healthcare reform. If elected president, we believe that Governor Romney will fundamentally improve our nation's healthcare delivery system – providing the necessary healthcare reform that allows for more choice, affordability and access for every American.

Congressmen Gingrey (R-GA) And Price (R-GA) serve as health care advisers to Governor Mitt Romney.